At Texas Children’s Hospital, we recently opened our first Special Needs Eye Clinic. For parents of children with a range of physical, developmental and behavioral differences, such as ADHD and autism, getting to our hospital clinic in the Texas Medical Center can be very frustrating. By the time you’ve parked and trekked through a hospital filled with all kinds of lights, smells, sounds and people, your child can be worn out and potentially melting down.
I wanted a clinic to be a place of understanding and reassurance; where parents could bring their children without apologies. Doctor visits are stressful enough for any parent and child, even more so for children with special needs. We can’t make all of the stress and fear go away, but if we can create a less intimidating atmosphere for our patient families, then I’m determined to do just that.
Our goal is to make visits easier, calmer, less frightening and more productive for all patients, but especially for those who need it most. Texas Children’s Health Center Cy-Fair seemed to be the perfect place to start. It’s generally quiet and low-key, aside from an occasional wild rumpus! Parking is easy, free and close to the door. Lighting is low, and the staff is warm and welcoming.
We strive to maintain the shortest possible wait times in our large waiting room, and to then tailor exams to the individual child and his/her abilities. In many ways, the child drives the exam. This isn’t to say our expectations for these exams are lowered – we have the same expectations for each child. What’s different is the approach taken for each child. When your child is “done,” then we’re done. If we need to spread the exam over two visits, then that’s what we do. Our parents are also always welcome to visit with their child before the exam to familiarize them with the drive, building and even the lights and sounds of our lobby. If time permits, I’m happy to do a meet-and-greet and quick tour before the exam day. We rarely need to do this, but it’s available.
Our technicians are incredible with children, and go out of their way to learn as much as they can about communicating and working with special kids. My patients always surprise us and their parents, and often themselves, with what they’re capable of. I worked with an assistant once who refused to call my patients “special needs” out of concern for what other children would say. So, he called them all “VIPs.” I love that, and I still use it today. All of my patients are VIPs!
We know how meeting one special kid means you’ve met one special kid. Each child is unique. My clinic and working style is not perfect, and might not be a fit for every child or parent. We strive to make our visits as productive, happy and stress-free as we can every day. We’re constantly working toward finding better ways of doing things, like creating sensory toys and activities to both soothe and engage our patients. Right now, we’re creating a social book for eye doctor visits that will be accessed ahead of time to introduce kids to the ins and outs of an eye doctor exam.
I have so much to learn from all of my VIPs and their parents. If you see something you like, let us know. Likewise, if you have any ideas for ways we can improve our practice, let us know! We’re always eager to try new things.
If you’re interested in requesting an appointment at the Special Needs Eye Clinic, call Texas Children’s Health Center Cy-Fair directly at 832-822-3230. Appointments are available every Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with other weekday appointments available as needed.